Dead On: Relentless II (1992, directed by Michael Schroeder)

Still struggling to recover from having to act opposite Judd Nelson in the previous Relentless film, Los Angeles homicide detective Sam Deitz (Leo Rossi) finds himself investigating another string of seemingly random murders.  This time, the killer is Gregor (Miles O’Keeffe), a master of disguise who hangs his victims, decorates the crime scene with Satanic graffiti, and takes a lot of ice baths.  Deitz is forced to team up with a condescending FBI agent named Kyle Valsone (Ray Sharkey), who has his own reasons for wanting to capture Gregor and who might not have the best interests of the case in mind.  As if having to deal with killer Russians and crooked FBI agents isn’t bad enough, Deitz is also having to deal with the collapse of his married to Meg Foster and the everyday irritations of being an intense New York cop in laid back Los Angeles.

Relentless II is a better than the first Relentless, mostly because Miles O’Keeffe is a better villain than Judd Nelson.  Whereas Nelson was too twitchy to be taken seriously in the first Relentless, O’Keeffe is cold as ice and believably dangerous.  He’s a worthy opponent for Rossi and Sharkey.  How much Keeffe was in this movie?  Just enough to make it work.

Whenever O’Keeffe isn’t doing his thing, the movie focuses on Deitz and Valsone.  To a certain extent, their relationship mirrors the relationship that Deitz had with Malloy in the first Relentless except, this time, the mentor turns out to be just as bad the killer.  Ray Sharkey was a good actor whose career nosedived because of his own addictions.  He was always at his best playing streetwise bad guys, like Sonny Steelgrave in Wiseguy.  He’s good as Valsone, giving a performance that indicates that, even if mainstream Hollywood wasn’t willing to take a chance of him, he could have carved out a direct-to-video career as a poor man’s Michael Madsen.  Unfortunately, Sharkey contracted HIV as a result of his heroin addiction and he died of AIDS just a year after the release of Relentless II.

Leo Rossi gives another good performance as Sam Deitz.  Rossi was usually cast as abusive boyfriends and low-level mobsters and it’s obvious that he enjoyed getting to play a hero for once.  Meg Foster may not get to do much as Deitz’s wife but her otherworldly eyes are always a welcome sight.

Relentless II was the high point of the Relentless films.  It made enough money to lead to a sequel.  Sam Deitz’s days of hunting serial killers were not over.

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